SAQA All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.

National Certificate: Fisheries Observation: Inshore 
23513  National Certificate: Fisheries Observation: Inshore 
SGB Nature Conservation 
AgriSETA - Agriculture SETA  OQSF - Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework 
National Certificate  Field 01 - Agriculture and Nature Conservation  Nature Conservation 
Undefined  123  Level 4  NQF Level 04  Regular-Unit Stds Based 
Reregistered  SAQA 06120/18  2018-07-01  2023-06-30 
2024-06-30   2027-06-30  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification does not replace any other qualification and is not replaced by any other qualification. 

Qualification Purpose

This qualification has been developed to equip learners who wish to work as scientific observers aboard fishing vessels operating in inshore and coastal waters (typically within 40 nautical miles of the coast) with the skills required to be able to carry out the duties of a scientific observer efficiently and accurately. The learner is equipped with scientific skills as well as the life skills needed to function effectively in the closed community of a fishing vessel at sea. Fishing vessels, incidental mortality and

Scientific observers collect data on catch size and composition on board fishing vessels at sea and at landing sites ashore. In addition to this basic function, they collect data on the distribution of other marine life, such as birds and mammals, and their reaction to fishing vessels and operations. Information about the biological state of catches, by-catch, discards and fishing techniques is collected. This information is reported to scientific and fisheries management authorities for use in the assessment and management of marine living resources. It is important to note that observers do not have a law enforcement function.

A learner assessed as competent against this qualification will be able to observe fishing practices ashore and aboard commercial fishing vessels, sample catches and report on their findings to research and fisheries management organisations, thus contribute to the sustainable management of fisheries resources and the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems.

This competence will contribute to the sustainability of fisheries resources while providing the learner with a basis for further learning in higher education. This qualification leads to the level 5 Certificate in Fisheries Science Observation.

The qualification has been developed to assist with professionalisation across the conservation sub-sector.

Rationale of the Qualification:

Fisheries managers and fisheries scientists around the world are relying to an ever greater extent on information gathered aboard fishing vessels while they are at sea. Scientifically trained observers can collect data from catches as they are made, and can provide information with regard to fishing methods, by-catch and discards. This information leads to improved management of marine resources as well as a better understanding of the dynamics of fishing and the interaction between fish and fishers.

The typical learner would be one in possession of a grade 12 (NQF 4) certificate, although there will be learners who have a lower level of formal education but have gained relevant experience in the fishing industry. Hitherto the demand for observers has been filled by people who have a tertiary education. However, the government intends to expand the deployment of observers to eventually cover 100% of foreign fishing vessels and at least 50% of South African fishing vessels. This expansion of the observer programme will require that an estimated 100 - 300 observers be trained annually.

This qualification is designed to provide the learner with the scientific knowledge and skills required to carry out the work effectively, as well as the life skills necessary to survive in the somewhat strange environment that he/she will encounter as an observer aboard a fishing vessel 

It is assumed that the learner entering a programme leading to this qualification has communication, language proficiency, numeracy and biology at at least grade 9 (NQF level 2) or equivalent.

Recognition of prior learning

Any learner wishing to be directly assessed may arrange to do so, without attending further training or education. The assessor and learner will decide together on the most appropriate assessment route to be taken. 



Exit level outcomes
On achieving this qualification the learner will be able to:

1. Function as a shore- or ship based scientific observer in the inshore and coastal fisheries. (See notes)
2. Collect scientific data on fish catches.
3. Carry out the scientific functions of an observer while continuously monitoring and adapting own performance as required.
4. Develop a set of values and ethics regarding conservation and environmental issues.
5. Communicate effectively with the public to further conservation awareness. 

Associated assessment criteria

In particular assessors should check for:

Practical Competence:
The learner must demonstrate an ability to consider a range of options and make decisions about:

1. The correct methods and techniques to apply in any given situation

Foundational Competence:
The learner must demonstrate an understanding of:

1. Sampling techniques and procedures used in observer work
2. The marine environment
3. The basic principles of fisheries management.

Reflexive Competence:
The learner must demonstrate the ability to:

1. Select, identify and sample marine organisms in a scientifically accepted manner
2. Determine the position of a vessel or landing site using charts and electronic navigation aids.
3. Report on fishing activities, including methods used, catches and conservation practices.
4. Conduct himself/herself in an acceptable manner while aboard a fishing vessel without compromising the integrity of the work.

Integrated assessment

Integrated assessment at the level of qualification provides an opportunity for learners to show that they are able to integrate concepts, ideas and actions across unit standards to achieve competence that is grounded and coherent in relation to the purpose of the qualification.

Integrated assessment must judge the quality of the observable performance, but also the quality of the thinking that lies behind it. Assessment tools must encourage learners to give an account of the thinking and decision-making that underpin their demonstrated performance. Some assessment practices will be of a more practical nature while others will be of a more theoretical nature. The ratio between action and interpretation is not fixed, but varies according to the type and level of qualification. The assessment must ascertain whether the learner is capable of adapting and combining the competences of a number of unit standards in order to carry out a complex task in an effective way.

Assessment for this qualification must assess the learners' ability to apply the knowledge gained in an operational scenario. This would include the ability to make decisions regarding sampling strategies, the ability to communicate with the crew of the vessel in a non-confrontational way and the ability to report results clearly and succinctly.

A broad range of task-orientated and theoretical assessment tools may be used, with the distinction between practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge maintained so that each takes its rightful place. 

These standards have been written by fisheries and conservation experts involved in international debates and practices in this area, and their knowledge has been captured in the structure and content of the standards. The standards are based on internationally accepted standards for fisheries observers.

The qualifications have been compared with those offered in Namibia by NAMFI, the requirements for observers laid down by CCAMLR, and the training given to observers in Australia, Alaska, California and Massachusetts. It should be noted that, with the exception of the course offered in Namibia, observers are required to be in possession of a science degree or equivalent and receive only top up training.

An exercise will shortly be underway to compare and share standards in fisheries management across the Southern African Development Community and the results and findings will be fed into future revisions of the standards. 

Articulation possibilities

This qualification has been developed for fisheries observers across the marine fishing and marine science industry and it is intended to professionalise and uplift the standards of Observers in South Africa.

The marine fishing and marine science industries can use this qualification for developing learners and enhancing their scientific knowledge base at advance levels of observation. This qualification will provide articulation with a range of qualifications in conservation and fisheries resource management practice. Related fields include fisheries resource management, fisheries compliance and fisheries research. 

Anyone assessing a learner against these unit standards must be registered as an assessor with the relevant ETQA.

Any institution offering learning that will enable achievement of these unit standards or will assess these unit standards must be accredited as a provider with the relevant ETQA. Moderation of assessment will be overseen by the relevant ETQA according to the moderation guidelines in the relevant qualification and the agreed ETQA procedures.

Therefore anyone wishing to be assessed against these unit standards may apply to be assessed by any assessment agency, assessor or provider institution, which is accredited by the relevant ETQA. 

Criteria for registration of assessors

For an applicant to register as an assessor, the applicant needs:
  • A minimum of two years practical, relevant occupational experience.
  • Declared competent in all the outcomes of the National Assessor Unit Standards as stipulated by SAQA.
  • Detailed documentary proof of educational qualification, practical training undergone, and experience gained by the applicant must be provided (Portfolio of evidence).
  • Meet any other stipulated requirements by the relevant ETQA. 

    As per the SAQA Board decision/s at that time, this qualification was Reregistered in 2012; 2015. 


    1. Scientific observers provide information that can best be collected by trained personnel working on board fishing vessels, or communicating directly with fishers at landing sites. This includes information on actual fishing practices, catches, as well as other details that might be noted by a trained observer. While observers are not law enforcement officers, their presence in many cases leads to a reduction of illegal practices. This qualification is intended for entry level observers who will operate aboard vessels undertaking short trips in coastal waters or will be collecting data at landing sites.

    Although observers are primarily data gatherers, they serve as an information conduit between the authorities and the fishing communities. As such, they provide a valuable public education function.

    2. For the purpose of this qualification, inshore waters are defined as that part of the sea that is situated within 40 nautical miles from the coast. This is in contrast to inland waters which are freshwater bodies situated inland, i.e. not on the coast.

    3. The nature of work aboard a ship, especially aboard fishing vessels, is such that disabled persons would be unable to function in the role of an observer. Obstacles to the use of disabled persons include vertical ladders, access to fish holds, coamings in doorways and the pitching and rolling associated with a vessel operating in a seaway. There may be a limited use of disabled persons at landing sites, although many of the access problems on vessels would still apply. 

    Core  8555  Contribute to information distribution regarding HIV/AIDS in the workplace  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Core  110015  Demonstrate a basic knowledge of applicable fisheries legislation and regulations  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Core  13570  Demonstrate knowledge of observer protocols, seamanship and navigation  Level 4  NQF Level 04  10 
    Core  109998  Demonstrate knowledge of personal survival at sea  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Core  109993  Display an understanding of basic physical oceanography and meteorology  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Core  109997  Identify and report on important fish, crustacean, marine mammal and bird species  Level 4  NQF Level 04  20 
    Core  8648  Demonstrate an understanding of professional values and ethics  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Core  12402  Utilise knowledge of fishing techniques to ensure legal compliance  Level 5  Level TBA: Pre-2009 was L5 
    Fundamental  8968  Accommodate audience and context needs in oral communication  Level 3  NQF Level 03 
    Fundamental  8971  Analyse and respond to a variety of literary texts  Level 3  NQF Level 03 
    Fundamental  8969  Interpret and use information from texts  Level 3  NQF Level 03 
    Fundamental  8970  Write texts for a range of communicative contexts  Level 3  NQF Level 03 
    Fundamental  8591  Analyse and understand social issues  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  9015  Apply knowledge of statistics and probability to critically interrogate and effectively communicate findings on life related problems  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8558  Collate, understand and communicate workplace data  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8974  Engage in sustained oral communication and evaluate spoken texts  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8977  Evaluate literary texts  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8561  Function in a Team  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  12417  Measure, estimate & calculate physical quantities & explore, critique & prove geometrical relationships in 2 and 3 dimensional space in the life and workplace of adult with increasing responsibilities  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8559  Plan and conduct research  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8975  Read analyse and respond to a variety of texts  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  7468  Use mathematics to investigate and monitor the financial aspects of personal, business, national and international issues  Level 4  NQF Level 04 
    Fundamental  8976  Write for a wide range of contexts  Level 4  NQF Level 04 


    This information shows the current accreditations (i.e. those not past their accreditation end dates), and is the most complete record available to SAQA as of today. Some Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionaries have a lag in their recording systems for provider accreditation, in turn leading to a lag in notifying SAQA of all the providers that they have accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards, as well as any extensions to accreditation end dates. The relevant Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionary should be notified if a record appears to be missing from here.
    1. Agri RDA Holdings Pty Ltd 
    2. Badishi Training and Consultants 
    3. Le2lwazi Consulting (Pty) Ltd 
    4. LFP AGRI (PTY) LTD 
    5. Ligwalagwala Trade Institute Pty Ltd 
    6. Shared Knowledge Consulting 
    7. Sinovuyolethu Trading Pty Ltd 
    8. Skills Development and Training Company (Pty) Ltd 
    9. Ubuntu Farm College 

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.